Can You Have Knowledge Without Zeal?

As a parent and teacher, I can get frustrated really quickly and thoroughly when I see wasted intellectual potential…kids who have plenty of smarts and know what to do, but just don’t have the self motivation to make the grade. Frustration is replaced by sadness when I look, then, at another child who gets very excited about learning, but perhaps because of a disability or some other roadblock to knowledge will likely never excel academically. It’s the knowledge-motivation combination that spurs kids on to success. It takes both.

It’s interesting that the scriptures make a spiritual application to this dual key to success. In Romans 10, when Paul was lamenting over the lost house of Israel, he said in verse two that they had zeal, but it was not according to knowledge. They could get very excited about religion. But zeal, without the guidance of knowledge, is dangerous. In fact, it was misguided zeal that prompted the mob to call for the crucifixion of Christ.

Last Sunday night, I came to appreciate, once again, the blessing of being in a congregation of God’s people who are characterized by both knowledge and zeal. The lesson Sunday night consisted of questions and answers. Throughout the month, members place their Bible-related questions in the question box and then, on the third Sunday night of each month, the lesson covers as many of those questions as the hour allows. The depth of study reflected in the kinds of questions asked always amazes me.  Lots of these questions are about the meanings of specific passages. Some are about applying difficult passages in our culture. Often, the questions reflect that our members are having studies with non-Christians. I get very excited about the way the Christians at West Huntsville are in the book. (You can hear these Question/Answer sessions, by the way, at www.westhuntsville.org.)

Last Sunday night we went straight from this intense period of Biblical inquiry to a planning session to prepare for our yearly Family Bible Week. I have never seen a group of adults so excited about volunteering for huge amounts of work! I was a few moments late getting to the meeting and they were calling me on my cell phone to get input on which Bible account we wanted to choose for our group skit. They were very excited to inform me that, since they couldn’t reach me, they had picked Paul’s Shipwreck from Acts 27. “Shipwrecks are very exciting, “ they said. “We can really get the kids’ attention and they can learn all kinds of things!…Now who all can we recruit to help? Let’s try to get a bunch of people who need to get to know more people….This skit is going to be awesome… Let’s put the part in where Paul was bitten by the snake. Kids will love that…”

…I bear them record. They have a zeal for God that IS according to knowledge. Thinking about this exhilarating meeting made me ponder zeal and knowledge when I got home. It’s easy to have zeal without knowledge. You can get worked up easily about erroneous ideas. But it’s very hard to have the knowledge that comes from God’s word and not have zeal for working in the kingdom, helping the needy and sharing the gospel. The gospel is good news! The Bible is full of eternally exciting stuff. It’s hard to truly know God’s grace, His plan and His promises without getting pumped about getting that message to the world.  You can have zeal without knowledge, but I think real knowledge without zeal would require a pretty calloused heart.

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